Servant Leaders for the 2lst Century:
Curriculum Proposal in Leadership Through Cooperative Learning

©2000 Doreen Fisher

edited 12/16/00


In designing the "Servant Leaders for the 21st" Century" program, the changing goals and culture due to the recent merger to form the Berks-Lehigh Valley College was a major consideration for the proposal. The college has identified the use of innovative approaches to learning as the means to become distinctive within the Penn State University System. Currently, the college offers a few four-year degree programs in Business, Electrical-Mechanical Engineering Technology, Culture Studies, Computer Science & Technology, and our new Kinesiology and Applied Psychology degrees. University Park supports our new four-year degree programs but mandates that we must retain students at our location in order to prevent an increased volume of transfer students to University Park.

With this in mind, the proposed program would enhance our efforts to retain students at our college by implementing this innovative approach to learning. Recognizing the concern, the "Servant Leaders for the 21st Century" program uses a learning community model, based on the beliefs of John Dewey, to combine existing courses such as Social Problems and Rhetoric and Composition as well as an established Leadership Interest House with a new first-year seminar course in leadership. This program will aim to integrate students into our college community, make connections with faculty, staff, students, the Berks County community, and provide the skills to become active leaders in campus life as well as in their profession.

The slogan "Servant Leadership" was defined to show how this meets our organizational goals. The use of the slogan may have been detrimental if this term was not clearly defined and related to the mission of the organization. The use of persuasive language was also used to gain consensus, particularly in regard to the benefits of the program.

The ability of our college to provide a Penn State education with frequent interactions with faculty, staff, and business leaders/employers in our community by utilizing a "hands on" learning experience is how we can become distinctive; thus retaining our students. Additionally, the component of servant leadership meets our University mission to service the people of the commonwealth and give back to the members in our Berks County community.

In anticipating potential criticisms, the benefits to the students, institution, and most importantly the faculty were identified and substantiated by research. In relation to the faculty a frequent concern is faculty load and time to participate in new innovations. This concern was alleviated by indicating that the college supports these faculty initiatives by offering a faculty group called "Innov8ors" to assist in new techniques as well as a Faculty Development and Evaluation Subcommittee to establish incentives, support, as well as grants and professional development funds for programs such as this one. Additionally, housing the program in our new four-year degree in Business supports the costs of the program and adds a unique aspect to this degree by linking the classroom to their living envirom-nent and connections to business leaders in the area.

In regard to the costs of the program, the efficiency of this program is enhanced by combining existing general education courses and a currently funded special living option, then adding one new first-year seminar course. This program is also efficient for the students in that the program meets their general education requirements by completing 3 credits in each of the following areas: Writing/Speaking, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the required First-Year Seminar course. The costs of marketing the program, business lecturers and out-of-class experiences will require some additional funding; although existing funding sources such as Beaver Lecture Fund, Beaver Community Service Endowment, and $3,000 commitment to activities in the Leadership Special Interest House would support these components of the program.

Some other anticipated negatives or concerns of the program were enrollment expectations to successfully run the program, how it will be evaluated, and commuter students that do not live in the residence hall. The evaluation of the program is an additional burden on faculty and staff or this requires additional costs, thus offering a graduate student the opportunity to study this concept is suggested. Commuter students will not be able to experience the residential living but they can participate in the activities of the house.

This brings into question what purpose the program supports and what status, vocational, or social interests it satisfies. Advantages for the students are the connections with faculty, staff, and community and to meet business leaders, which may lead to employment. The intrinsic benefits for the students are the friendships made with other students and the joy of giving to the community. Individual benefits are seen in the leadership knowledge and skills gained. The gains to the community and the retention of students at the campus are seen as indivisible benefits of the program.

"Symbolic benefits support and enhance the formal culture of a group." (Rozycki&Clabaugh,1990) The program's symbolic benefit is seen in the enhancement of the intrinsic value of servant leadership by utilizing the leadership skills learned to give back to the local community. The vocational benefits are the leadership skills gained in the program for personal and professional success, which may predict future status and earnings. Although as suggested in a rebuttal, servant leadership may be occupationally inappropriate for business majors. In regard to social control, the program's curriculum is "hands on" with ample out-of-class and in-class learning experiences to meet the student's needs. The literature suggests, "If students were in charge, they would support curricular items that incorporate field activities, trips, and hands-on experiences. Additionally, students that are active leaders in campus life and are involved in the efforts of the college with faculty and staff become positive role models for other students.

The pedagogical structure of the program enhances learning through the uses of a learning community model. The connection of the coursework in each of the classes taught as well as the activities of the Leadership Special Interest House and the work with non-profit or for-profit organizations enhances the meaning and learning associated with the curriculum. Additionally, the impact of this program is such that this will become a model for other departments in the college. The first-year seminar will be taught by a tenured business faculty member, which their power and influence may add to consensus toward this pedagogical style and adoption by other faculty members. The program does impact on the disciplinary structure of the curriculum by breaking down the walls between the disciplines. Faculty in Business, English, and Sociology are coordinating and collaborating on coursework to provide an integrated approach to learning.

The program unfortunately would be limited to first-year students but upperclassmen could participate in the activities of the Leadership Special Interest House. It would be difficult to identify course content for consecutive courses in leadership development. The program would be marketed and advertised to all students, thus not limited to business students only. Also it was suggested that students interested in the program should write a short essay on their interest in being in the program. This suggestion will be incorporated into the program in order to ensure a match between the interests of the students and the program objectives.

Currently, social work faculty at our campus teaches general education courses because the completion of a degree in this area is taught at University Park. Additionally, the college aims to market to students the distinctiveness of our business program as compared to students transferring into University Park's Smeal College of Business. This program will enhance the benefits of our small campus connection to faculty, staff, students, and business leaders as well as innovative learning. This question also addresses concern of the universality of servant leadership, in particular for the field of business. In the article How Servant Leadership Leads to Business Success, the author indicates "I came to understand that leaders lead best by serving the needs of their people. The result of my leadership lessons at Game Time was that in three years Game Time became the most productive division of Toro with the best return on investment."(Melrose,1995)

Justiflcation Statement

The Berks and Lehigh Valley campuses merged to form a new Penn State BerksLehigh Valley College in July 1997. Enrollment at the college is approximately 2,500 students. The goals of the new college are based on Penn State's mission as Pennsylvania's land grant institution, which is to provide teaching, research and public service to the people of the commonwealth, the nation and the world.

Faculty and administration at the Berks-Lehigh Valley College were instrumental in developing the "Preparing for the Twenty-First Century Strategic Plan 1997-2002," which has identified the movement toward excellence and distinction in the use of innovative approaches to learning as a key goal (See Appendix 1). Dean Gaige establishes clarity regarding the innovative approaches to learning as: active and collaborative methods and other forms of learning in groups, asynchronistic and other forms of technology-enhanced learning, individualized and self-directed learning, application of information and theory gained in the classroom to life experiences through study abroad, coops, internships, service learning, other "field"-based learning, and discovery-based approaches to learning including student involvement in faculty research.

"To overcome resistance to the implementation of an innovation, management must therefore share its power with those who must implement the innovation by allowing them to participate in decisions about the change to be made. (Gross, et al.,1971) The Dean of the College established a group of faculty, staff, and administrators, the "Innov8ors", to address the issue how to achieve excellence in learning. This committee reports to the Dean and the Faculty Senate regarding their progress and impact on the future of the college. Lastly, the work of the Berks-Lehigh Valley College Faculty Development and Evaluation Subcommittee is establishing the framework for compatibility within the organization to achieve this organizational goal.

The Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College strives to provide an enriching academic experience through innovative learning and teaching, scholarship, and service to the community. The need for higher education to serve the community in which we live and to improve society by advancing an educated populace begins with education that fosters a link of self to community. Locally, there is a need for volunteers and future leaders in serving the community. Nationally, the development of professionals who are leaders in the world of work as well as society is instrumental to the advancement of the 2lst Century. How can the college foster the link of academic learning to real world problems, developing our future leaders, and service to the community?

"Servant Leaders for the 21st Century"

In serving the mission of Penn State and the Berks-Lehigh Valley College, the "Servant Leaders for the 21st Century" will impart our student's comprehension of the world around them while preparing them professionally and personally as leaders for the 21 st century. This program will be housed under the new Bachelor of Business program offered at the Berks-Lehigh Valley College. The vision of the "Servant Leaders for the 2 1 st Century" program is to supplement a residential learning environment (Leadership Interest House, established in Fall 1999) with collaborative learning experiences in the classroom as well in the community for first-year students.

What is servant-leadership? It is a practical philosophy which supports people who choose to serve first and then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions. Servant-leaders may or may not hold formal leadership positions. Servant Leadership encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment. (Greenleaf, 1996).

The purpose of the Leadership Interest House is to offer participating students a one-year experience which will:

The leadership course will be a three credit First Year Seminar course that is linked with a Social Problems course (SOC 005) and a Rhetoric and Composition course (ENGL 015). Social Problems is a 3 credit general education course that addresses current social problems such as economic, racial, and gender inequalities; population, environmental, energy, and health problems. Rhetoric and Composition is a required 3credit general education course that provides instruction and practice in writing expository prose that shows sensitivity to audience and purpose. For this course a prerequisite is Basic Writing Skills (ENGL 004) or satisfactory on the English proficiency examination.

The Social Problems course will be linked with the leadership course to provide insight into the issues facing today's society and how they influence power and leadership within a community. Rhetoric and Composition is beneficial to enhance communication and written ability as well as reflect on the theory and experiences occurring in the Leadership and Social Problems courses. As mentioned earlier, the students enrolled in these three linked courses will also reside in the Leadership Special InterestHouse. Commuters interested in participating in the "Servant Leaders for the 21" Century" program will be able to participate in the interest house activities and meetings without residing in the residential community.

Leadership Course Objective

This course will provide students with opportunities to explore, develop and practice leadership skills. It will also discuss the leadership characteristics of various influential people as well as analyze real-life situations through case studies and simulations. The course will explore the concept and principles of leadership as well as how to apply their skills in different settings; such as for-profit, not- for-profit, private and public organizations and community volunteer activities. Additionally, the course will address how to become a leader in higher education by learning about the university and campus life, develop communication and critical thinking skills for academic success, clarify values, academic goals, and personal development strategies.


A business faculty member will teach the course. The major topics to be covered are the concepts and principles of leadership, learning about servant leadership through out-of-class experiences, the role of a leader in different organizations, such as business, government, and non-for- profit organizations, an understanding of their personal leadership style through self-assessments, an analysis of a variety of prominent leaders, and essential skills for leadership and academic success. The suggested text is Kouzes, James M. and Posner, Barry Z. (1995). The leadership challenge. San Francisco: JosseyBass Publishers. Alternate text is Boatman, S.A. (1992). Supporting student leadership. Columbia, South Caroline: National Association for Campus Activities; Terrell, Melvin C. (1994). Developing student government leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers; and Terry, Robert W. (1993). Authentic leadership. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers.
The faculty in the "Servant Leaders for the 21st Century" program will link their coursework so the knowledge gained about current social problems will relate to their experiences in the community and the leadership skills will relate to their understanding of how to make an impact on our community; as well as writing about societal problems, their self-analysis of their leadership style and skills, experiences in the community, and a prominent leader. The Leadership House will supplement the in-class learning with a teambuilding retreat, attending leadership conferences, field trips to locations such as Washington, D.C., Harrisburg, United Nations Headquarters, and research centers; community service projects, and consulting with local high schools to provide a leadership workshop to influence future leaders.


The achievement of the leadership course objectives will be based on class discussion, leadership skills assessment paper, an annotated bibliography, and a final examination. A graduate student will conduct the assessment of the "Servant Leaders for the 21st Century" program by both qualitative and quantitative methods.


The benefits of the program for students are

1. A greater involvement in learning by applying what they have learned in the classroom to participate and understand how to be a leader in the community. "They spent more time learning together both inside and outside of class. In this way, learning communities enabled students to bridge the divide between academic classes and student social conduct that frequently characterizes student iife."(Tinto, V., "Learning Better Together: The Impact of Learning Communities on Student Success in College." Paper presented at Syracuse University, 1999.)

2. Increased interaction with faculty and peers enhances student learning. "By learning together everyone's understanding and knowledge was, in the eyes of the participants, enriched.

3.Learning how to effectively communicate and utilize their personal leadership style to effectively operate in business, government, and the community.

4. A supportive transition into and personal growth in college. "There is good, solid correlational evidence that students who are involved with the people and activities of learning communities are significantly more likely than their less involved peers to show growth in intellectual interests and values, and apparently more likely to get more out of their college education."(Cross, Patricia K. "Why learning communities? Why now?" About Campus, July-August 1998, 4-11.)

5. Students receive six General Education credits and meet the requirements for completion of a First- Year Seminar.

The benefits to faculty are:

1. Release time to work with the other faculty members involved in the "Servant Leaders for the 21" Century" program. This also promotes faculty sharing knowledge about their discipline with one another.

2. An increased continuity and integration of the coursework taught in the Social Problems, Rhetoric and Composition, and Leadership course.

3. Professional development funding to continue and enhance their pedagogical methods.

4. Teaching students that are active participants in their learning. Research indicates that, "the payoff is in the student's involvement in courses, their enthusiasm, and their pursuit of topics to a more advanced level." (Cross)

The benefits to the institution are:

1. Retention of students. "Students who have frequent contact with faculty members in and out of class during their college years are more satisfied with their educational experiences, are less likely to drop out, and perceive themselves to have learned more than students who have less faculty contact."(Cross)

2. All members of the college, faculty, staff, students, and administrators, are working together to promote learning.

Working toward fulfilling their institutional mission to provide teaching, research and public service to the people of the commonwealth as well as the college goal to become distinctive within the University in terms of innovative teaching and learning. The Berks County community will also benefit from the service and leadership provided to the members of the community through non- profit organizations.

Dewey's Philosophy Embedded in this Proposal

At the basis of Dewey's theory is the connection of education with democracy as the basis of society. Dewey states, "A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience."" In a democratic society genuine communication of experience is reciprocal, between the members of the same group and other groups as well as individual and individual. This view implies that in education the student is an equal participant in the group, teachers cannot impose externally upon the student but communicate in a joint educative process. In democratic communities both the individual and the community are valued. "He wants educators to tailor their pedagogy and curriculum to the needs of individual children and, simultaneously, to forge miniature communities in which students work cooperatively toward common goals."12 This democratic conception is generally opposed to setting up divisions and dualisms. Knowledge is connected to the interactions of the human to a given situation in his or her environment. "An ideally perfect knowledge would represent such a network of interconnections that any past experience would offer a point of advantage from which to get at the problem presented in a new experience." (Dewey, 1916, Democracy and Education,32.)

It is not just the act of stimuli and response but also a connection of the experience to a meaning. The environment that furnishes the stimuli is social as well as physical, and the experiences are educative in the sense that the responses are of intelligence and emotion as well as physical movement. "When an activity is continued into the undergoing of consequences, when the change made by action is reflected back into a change made in us, the mere flux is loaded with significance. We learn something.
Dewey believed in general education for all; which is "of, by, and forexperience." He indicates that education cannot take place by any direct transfer of an idea or belief from teacher to pupil. The teacher can educate his pupil only by transforming his or her environment. "The educator's part in the enterprise of education is to furnish the environment which stimulates responses and directs the learner's course. In last analysis, all that the educator can do is modify stimuli so that response will as surely as is possible result in the formation of desirable intellectual and emotional dispositions." The subject matter, facts that are read about or observed, is what a student desires to learn and needs to be the focus of activity in the classroom. The curriculum becomes subject matter when the learner is interested in the material applied through purposeful activities. According to Dewey it is the situation created in the classroom, not the teacher, that makes the subject matter of vital concern to the learner.
Thus given the appropriate situations, schools can be influential in transforming both individuals and the societies in which they exist. Dewey supported curricular activities that helped turn schools into "a genuine form of active community life, instead of a place set apart in which to learn lessons. From these curricular activities, students learn together and expand on their previous experiences individually and collectively.

This suggests that the school as envisioned by Dewey should: "(1) be consistent with the basic tenants of democracy; (2) enhance the self-concept of the learner; (3) actively involve the learner; (4) place the concrete before the abstract; (5) be flexible; and (6) place the teacher in helping relationship."


The costs of the program are based on enrollment expectations, faculty load and time (curricular design and professional development), recruitment and marketing of the program, and out-of-class experiences. The Leadership Interest House that was established in fall of 1999 at the college is supported by a college commitment of $3,000 for the social and educational activities of the students. The college to support this program's initiatives could pursue a Fund for the Improvement of Undergraduate Education (FIPSE) grant.

Currently, there are 140 paid accept first-year students at the Berks-Lehigh Valley College in the College of Business for fall 2000. The maximum number of participants in this program would need to be twenty-five students to meet the class and faculty load requirements for the three courses offered. Additionally, the students must meet the prerequisite requirement of placing into English 15 their first semester. The Social Problems Course and Rhetoric and Composition Course are established within the General Education curriculum but the addition of the First-Year Seminar Leadership Course will require institutional commitment. The business faculty member teaching this course might seek support from the College of Business.

The time and energy of the faculty to effectively offer the linked courses through a collaboration of their coursework can be supplanted by release time. Being part of the Inov8tors faculty will also be supported by additional professional development money to continue their expertise in designing "innovative" approaches to learning. The college will provide funding for guest speakers through the Beaver Lecture Fund and the initiatives in the community as well as transportation to the locations could be supported by the Beaver Community Service endowment up to the amount of $500.

Additionally, one faculty member and a Student Affairs staff member advise the students in the Leadership Special Interest House along with a designated resident assistant. The faculty advisor of the house would require additional release time or compensation for their time. Brochures to recruit students into the program will require support from admissions and residence life to successfully run the program. Conclusion This project is a model for both local and nationwide institutions of higher education for increasing the student's understanding of social and leadership issues as well as improving student achievement personally and professionally. Also, this is an innovative model of collaborative academic planning with Student Affairs professionals, faculty, students, and community agencies. The residential learning community environment is complimented by academic coursework that increases faculty to student involvement through active learning. The contribution to non-profit organization's leadership and service needs would potentially impact the quality of life in Berks County.


Cross, Patricia K. "Why learning communities? Why now?" About Campus, (July-August 1998), 4-11.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education. (New York: The Macmillan Company, Inc.)

Dewey, J (193 8). Experience and Education. (New York: The Macmillan Company Inc.)

Dewey, J ([1900] 1956). "The School and Society." In The Child and the Curriculum and the School and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gross, N; Giacquinta, J.B.; & Bernstein, M. (1971). Implementing organizational innovations. New York: Basic Books Inc.

Greenleaf, R. K (1996). On Becoming a Servant-Leader. Jossey-Bass Publishers,

Kahne, J. (1995). Reframing Educational Policy. (Teachers College, Columbia University), p. 32.

Melrose, K. B. (1995). Making the Grass Greener on Your Side: A CEO's Journey to Leading by Serving. Berrett-Cohler Publishers: Publishers Group West.

Rozycki, E. and Clabaugh, G. (1990). Understanding schools. Thefoundations of education. New York: Harper & Rowe.

Tinto, V., "Learning Better Together: The Impact ofLearning Communities on Student Success in College." Paper presented at Syracuse University, (1999).

Wyett, J. John Dewey & Earl Kelley: Giants in Democratic Education. Education, 119, 1, pp 151-160.